Well Being

Chiari Malformation

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In Chiari Malformation (also known as Arnold Chiari Malformation, ACM), the cerebellum protrudes into the spinal canal. According to the Pediatric Neurosurgery unit of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center's Neurological Institute:

Essentially there is extra cerebellum crowding the outlet of the brainstem/spinal cord from the skull on its way to the spinal canal. This crowding will commonly lead to headaches, neck pain, funny feelings in the arms and/or legs, stiffness, and less often will cause difficulties with swallowing or gagging. Often the symptoms are made worse with straining. When the diagnosis is suspected the study of choice is an MRI scan.

Mary Beth Palo's autistic son was found to have Chiari 1 Malformation. Since surgery on April 28, 2004,

Brett is a changed child. His personality has blossomed, his language has exploded, his sleep issues are all gone, his stims and tantrums have disappeared, his OCD and anxiety are almost non-existent. While we still see some hyperactivity and some small issues, we feel that this was a miracle for us. The surgery truly was our answer to Brett’s autism. He continues to make daily improvements. He is no longer on any medication or supplements.

(A full account by can be read at Brett's Story-Not Just About Autism.)

Ms. Palo notes that she has met more than a few parents of autistic children who have the Chiari 1 Malformation. (Charlie, for the record, does not have it.) Ms. Palo is also the creator of the Watch Me Learn series of videos. According to her website, her videos have “already helped thousands of autistic children learn everyday life skills and build the foundation for continuing development.” In describing How It Began, she notes that, in 2005, four years after she had made her first video for her son,

Brett is talking up a storm, socializing and just being a kid. He is now one of the happiest children I have ever seen and is in a mainstream class in the local school district.

Though her account of Brett's Story-Not Just About Autism attributes the changes in her son to the surgery for Chiari 1 Malformation, she does not mention this additional neurological condition and its major significance for her son on the Watch Me Learn website. Ms. Palo presented on Video: A powerful teaching tool for the visual learner at the 2005 AutismOne conference and will be presenting again at the 2006 conference on May 27.

I hope she will clarify whether it was the surgery or her videos that have been the “answer” to her son's autism.